Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a ban on the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products in the state. The action makes Michigan the first state to enact a ban on these products, though other jurisdictions, including the city of San Francisco, have had similar restrictions in effect since last year.
Flavored e-cigarette products have been the target of lawmakers and regulatory agencies for years as evidence has mounted that kids tend to be drawn to flavored products and vaping was on the rise among adolescents and teens. Last year, the US surgeon general declared youth vaping an epidemic.
“My number one priority is keeping our kids safe and protecting the health of the people of Michigan,” Whitmer said in an interview with The Washington Post, which first reported the ban. The ban is effective immediately, reports the Post, and it will be in effect for the next six months while Michigan lawmakers work to put more permanent restrictions in place. It covers all sales in the state, both online and in stores, and business owners will have 30 days to comply.
In addition to targeting all points of sale in the state, the Michigan ban encompasses all flavors of e-cigarette, including mint and menthol, making it far more comprehensive than restrictions announced by the Food and Drug Administration last year. The guidelines announced by the FDA prohibit the sale of most flavored products in places where people under 18 can shop. But they don’t ban them outright, and they still allow flavors like mint and menthol to be sold on shelves.
The FDA’s decision to allow those products to stay on shelves worried experts at the time. “Those are flavors that are also quite popular among people,” Kathleen Hoke, a law professor at the University of Maryland, told The Verge in March. “They’re trying to draw a line, I see that, but I don’t think the line is in the best place for public health.”
Experts have other worries when it comes to vaping and public health. A study published last year found that chemicals in e-cigarette flavors reacted with other chemicals in the e-cigarette liquid, creating new products, which have the potential to irritate the lungs.
There are also ongoing investigations into two public health scares related to e-cigarette use. The FDA continues to look into reports of seizures following e-cigarette use, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate a mysterious lung disease that’s affected people after e-cigarette use. The disease’s origins are unclear, but many people have been hospitalized, and one person has died as a result of the illness. So far, the CDC and state health agencies are investigating a total of 215 cases in 25 states, including Michigan, which has observed six cases so far.
An advisory issued by the CDC last week encouraged people not to buy or use e-cigarette products they get off the street, and it made broader recommendations as well: “Regardless of the ongoing investigation, e-cigarette products should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”